TOTA Publishes 10-Year Regional Tourism Strategy

After two years of intensive discussions, consultation and research with hundreds of tourism stakeholders the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) is launching a 10-year regional tourism strategy. The regional strategy, Embracing Our Potential, shares the vision of creating exceptional visitor experiences through a partnership approach.

The official launch is part of ‘Tourism Day in the Thompson Okanagan’ on Friday, November 2, 2012, at Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon. The launch of the 10-year regional tourism strategy will begin at 3:30 PM with an announcement and networking reception. For other details on Tourism Day please see the backgrounder.

Tourism is a key industry generating revenues of $1.7 billion for the region. However, it remains highly seasonal – a key challenge that the strategy has sought to address. The result of an intensive industry-led process, Embracing Our Potential identifies a new coordinated approach to strengthening the industry and positioning the region firmly on the world stage of ‘must visit’ destinations.

TOTA CEO Glenn Mandziuk said, “We are known too much as a ‘sun and beaches’ destination. We want to create exceptional experiences that will draw visitors here every month of the year.”

This process has been welcomed by industry. After extended periods of consultation and feedback, formal endorsements have come from ALL leading tourism agencies representing 90 communities and hamlets, the Canadian Tourism Commission, Tourism BC, Aboriginal Tourism British Columbia (AtBC), go2 and the Okanagan Valley Economic Development Society.

Essential to this process was the ongoing participation and feedback from hundreds of individual tourist businesses that are the bedrock of the customer experience when visiting the Thompson Okanagan.

The level of cooperation and the encompassing scope of the endorsements are unprecedented within the region, and is a first for any regional tourism association within the province.

Mandziuk believes tourist organizations are taking to heart new ideas that show cooperation is essential for the region and individuals businesses to succeed. He explained that experiences are more than just a fabulous product or service offered by an individual company – “After a visitor checks into their hotel they want to find out what they can do over the next few days or weeks that will create great memories. They need the hotel to partner with others to create that great, authentic experience.”

Mandziuk further noted, “We have to understand who our competition is. It is not the businesses down the street – it is California or New Zealand.” Competition for tourism is increasing and understanding our visitors is critical. As part of the planning process, TOTA has adopted the Canadian Tourism Commission’s research-based ‘Explorer Quotient®’ program – a program that is backed by exceptional research and is based on segmenting our travelers by their social and travel values.

Explorer Quotient identifies nine types of travelers. The strategy identifies three that are most likely to be attracted to the Thompson Okanagan and to spend above average. These visitors are known as ‘Free Spirits,’ ‘Cultural Explorers’ and ‘Authentic Experiencers.’ Through developing a better understanding of the region’s visitors, the industry is in a better position to deliver the right type of experience and to create marketing messages in a way that will resonate with potential travelers. .

According to Ingrid Jarrett, TOTA’s Board Chair, “The message is that we can support development within our communities, create jobs and do it in a way that respects and sustains our environment, our diversity and our culture. This is what people are looking for.”

“Ten years from now,” said Mandziuk, “the Thompson Okanagan will be seen as a year-round destination with a unique image. People will want to come here because they’ll see it as authentic and there will be no place quite like it.”

Glenn Mandziuk, CEO
Thompson Okanagan Tourism Assn (TOTA)
Tel: 250-860-5999 ext 216 Email:


The Thompson Okanagan

The “Thompson Okanagan” represents the geographic area ranging from Christina Lake and the Shuswap to the east, Cache Creek and Princeton to the west, Mount Robson in the north, and Osoyoos in the south.

Tourism in the Region

More than 3.5 million travellers come to the Thompson Okanagan each year, generating $1.7 billion in economic activity and employing 15,000 people, making this a bigger economic driver than either mining or forestry in this region. Within North America key markets include the western U.S.A., Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Lower Mainland. Internationally visitors come from Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, China, South Korea, India and Brazil.

Developing the 10 Year Regional Strategy – Embracing Our Potential

Steps included:

Significant background research of local, regional, provincial, national and international strategies to ensure the Thompson Okanagan strategy would align with existing priorities
Analysis of Canadian and international traveller surveys
Establishment of a 12-person industry-led steering committee
Field research and one-to-one meetings with tourism business and organizations
Extensive number of workshops and discussion with industry
Presentation of the draft strategy to all communities within the region and a wide range of government stakeholders
Endorsement of the Strategy by tourism agencies representing ALL communities and major tourist organizations

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